Pubblicato in: Agricoltura, Devoluzione socialismo, Unione Europea

Germania. Constata di usare una ‘nuova forma di schiavitù’. – Deutsche Welle.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2020-05-15.

Mattatoio 013

«Coronavirus highlights scandalous conditions in Germany’s meat industry. Foreign workers are forced to endure inhumane living conditions so that we can eat cheap meat. Politicians can no longer ignore what’s happening at German slaughterhouses»

«In life, everything comes at a cost, and this also holds true for the cheap meat that consumers in rich, industrialized nations love to eat.»

«DW spoke to workers living in dilapidated, crowded conditions.»

«Nobody feels responsible»

«The problem has been “pushed back and forth between the local municipality, the region and the state,” with no one willing to act»

«One reason …. has to do with the fact that Westfleisch workers from Eastern and Southeast Europe are officially employed by a subcontractor, with German public health officials only getting involved once someone has been infected.»

«the foreigners. “They are poor people, put up in squalid conditions and exploited”»

«many foreign workers live “crammed into moldy dorms and decrepit homes,” making it impossible for them to keep a safe distance from each other. And, he says, the same applies for the “overcrowded buses that are used to shuttle workers to the slaughterhouse.”»

«Most workers in the industry are hired by subcontractors, who mainly employ Romanians, Bulgarian and Poles. The meat industry relies on this loophole to cut costs. And on paper, companies like Westfleisch carry no responsibility for the inhumane living conditions that the hundreds of foreigner workers staffing their slaughterhouses in Germany have to endure.»

«It’s an open secret that for years, laborers from Eastern and Southern Europe have been breaking their backs doing piecework in German slaughterhouses, and languishing in squalid living conditions. »

«Until recently, barely anyone seemed to be bothered by the status quo, with many arguing these workers come to Germany voluntarily, earning more money than in their respective home countries.»

«But, to keep prices low, companies pressure farmers to cut costs, too. Consequently, pork farmers keep animals in tiny pens and given them antibiotics so they don’t get sick. They are fed with cheap soy or corn, which is imported from South America»

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Il problema qui denunciato è in Germania di portata nazionale, e coinvolge gran parte degli immigrati richiamati con la promessa di buoni stipendi. Quello degli allevamenti e dei mattatoi è soltanto un caso particolare.

Volendo andare al cuore del problema, alcune considerazioni sgorgano spontanee.

– La Germania sta vivendo un crisi demografica devastante: il numero di persone giovani è in costante calo, mentre aumenta la quota dei vecchi. Ma senza nascite, alla fine vengono a mancare le braccia al lavoro.

– I tedeschi disdegnano il lavoro manuale di manovalanza. Eppure vi sono 10.1 milioni di lavoratori assunti con i Kurzarbeit. Le sovvenzioni statali sono più appetibili di un lavoro stabile.

– I tedeschi amano vive bene: reclamano servizi a basso costo e, soprattutto, che il cibo sia venduto al dettaglio a prezzi bassi.

– Il problema politico è evidente: nessun partito si sognerebbe mai di far levitare i costi dei prodotti essenziali.

– La risultante è semplice: per mantenere il loro stile di vita, i tedeschi impiegano una massa di lavoro servile, che ricorda molto, troppo, da vicino il concetto insito nel termine ‘Untermesch’.

*

Solo per esempio, fino a non poco tempo fa, i tedeschi presi da sentimenti animalisti, dimostravano contro gli allevamenti di maiali, che avrebbero trattato le bestie in modo ‘disumano’.

Germania. Divisa sulla castrazione dei maiali.

Bene.

Non sarebbe cosa da poco se i tedeschi iniziassero a trattare gli esseri umani almeno con lo stesso riguardo che hanno per i poveri maiali, allevati per finire al mattatoio.

«everything comes at a cost»

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Coronavirus: ‘Modern slavery’ at the heart of German slaughterhouse outbreak.

Just as lockdown measures are lifting, more than 200 employees at a slaughterhouse in western Germany have contracted COVID-19. DW spoke to workers living in dilapidated, crowded conditions.

I’m standing outside a run-down, two-story brick building in the village of Rosendahl, in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the residents, a man of around 50, tells me the home has been placed under quarantine “because of coronavirus.”

His grasp of English and German is limited, and he wants to remain anonymous, but he tells me he’s from the Romanian city of Sibiu.

The man doesn’t seem to understand that having his house under quarantine requires him to stay inside. He’s wearing a paper mask, but it dangles loosely around his neck. The man works at the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in nearby Coesfeld, along with a number of other Romanians, Bulgarians and Polish people.

Authorities have temporarily closed the slaughterhouse after news broke that an unknown number of workers at the site had become infected with the coronavirus. As of Monday afternoon, at least 249 people had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease — many of them foreign workers.

Nobody feels responsible

The Romanian man cannot say how many of his compatriots live in his building. He estimates 12, possibly more. The mailbox outside is covered with Romanian surnames, but nothing has been posted to indicate that the house has been placed under quarantine. No official notice, no handwritten sign, nothing. As we continue our conversation, another Romanian worker returns from the nearby supermarket, carrying a carton of eggs under his arm.

Anne-Monika Spallek, a spokeswoman for the Coesfeld Green party, says nobody has taken responsibility for the workers’ health and safety conditions. The problem has been “pushed back and forth between the local municipality, the region and the state,” with no one willing to act. One reason, she suspects, has to do with the fact that Westfleisch workers from Eastern and Southeast Europe are officially employed by a subcontractor, with German public health officials only getting involved once someone has been infected.

Spallek doubts the subcontractor has taken the legally required steps to prevent coronavirus from spreading inside the workers’ dorm. Every worker should have a room to himself, she says, and those infected with the virus should swiftly be isolated from the rest of the workers. Those forced to live under quarantine, among them the man and his fellow workers in Rosendahl, should be receiving deliveries of groceries and other essentials — not going out in public to fend for themselves.

A few minutes later, a minibus stops outside the house. Local authorities, immigration officers and public health workers — all clad in protective gear — head inside, it seems to start systematically testing workers for SARS-CoV-2. It will later emerge that authorities in Coesfeld carried out swab tests on 930 Westfleisch workers.

Locals sympathize with workers

A woman who lives across the street from the workers’ home tells me that authorities were slow to act and says she feels sorry for the foreigners. “They are poor people, put up in squalid conditions and exploited,” she says. An older man passing by on his bike says many locals now avoid the nearby supermarket, fearing they could contract the virus from one of the Romanian workers.

A 15-minute drive away, Peter Kossen and a friend are protesting outside the main entrance to the Westfleisch slaughterhouse. Kossen, a 51-year-old Catholic theologian, is holding up a sign that reads “End modern slavery.” They are appalled at how the workers have been treated.

“This catastrophe was on the horizon for weeks,” says Kossen, adding that many foreign workers live “crammed into moldy dorms and decrepit homes,” making it impossible for them to keep a safe distance from each other. And, he says, the same applies for the “overcrowded buses that are used to shuttle workers to the slaughterhouse.”

Just behind Kossen, trucks and workers can be seen leaving the site at regular intervals, even though officially the slaughterhouse has been temporarily shut down. The Westfleisch website, meanwhile, states that all workers infected with SARS-CoV-2, and those who came in contact with them, have been told to self-isolate at home. The company says it’s keeping in close contact with its employees.

This scandal has far-reaching consequences for the local municipality. While the state of North Rhine-Westphalia will ease some of its lockdown restrictions on Monday, Coesfeld municipality will keep them in place at least until May 18.

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Opinion: Coronavirus highlights scandalous conditions in Germany’s meat industry

Foreign workers are forced to endure inhumane living conditions so that we can eat cheap meat. Politicians can no longer ignore what’s happening at German slaughterhouses, says DW’s Miodrag Soric.

We’re all familiar with the saying “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” In life, everything comes at a cost, and this also holds true for the cheap meat that consumers in rich, industrialized nations love to eat.

After hundreds of Eastern European laborers employed at the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in North Rhine-Westphalia tested positive for the coronavirus, it clear is that the workers are the ones paying the price — sometimes with their lives — for this cheap meat. Sure, Westfleisch, Germany’s third largest meat processing company, has stated it carries responsibility for its workers. But look closer, and you’ll see the company only has a small number of actual employees. Most workers in the industry are hired by subcontractors, who mainly employ Romanians, Bulgarian and Poles.

Passing the buck

The meat industry relies on this loophole to cut costs. And on paper, companies like Westfleisch carry no responsibility for the inhumane living conditions that the hundreds of foreigner workers staffing their slaughterhouses in Germany have to endure.

The subcontractors, in turn, argue its the government that should be setting and enforcing basic labor and health standards. But in Germany, this is the prerogative of the respective municipalities or federal states. All of this has led to passing the buck, with nobody willing to step in. And while the North Rhine-Westphalia state labor minister has bemoaned a tendency to turn a blind eye in the meat industry, he has not taken action, either. No lawmaker has, for that matter.
It’s an open secret that for years, laborers from Eastern and Southern Europe have been breaking their backs doing piecework in German slaughterhouses, and languishing in squalid living conditions. Westfleisch management knows this full well, as do the subcontractors, local officials and police, Coesfeld district administrators, North Rhine-Westphalia state authorities and even federal lawmakers. Coesfeld residents are aware of the situation, and so too are residents in neighboring towns. They cross paths with workers at the local supermarket and bakery, after all. Until recently, barely anyone seemed to be bothered by the status quo, with many arguing these workers come to Germany voluntarily, earning more money than in their respective home countries.

A virus that threatens everyone

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, however. If three or four workers are crammed into a single room, the risk of an outbreak is significant. And this risk of course poses an immediate danger to nearby communities. Without the coronavirus pandemic, one might argue, somewhat cynically, that most Germans would have continued to ignore these workers’ dismal living conditions.

This scandal, incidentally, has global ramifications. Germany’s meat industry is so competitive that it even exports all the way to China. German companies can offer cheaper products than their global competitors. But, to keep prices low, companies pressure farmers to cut costs, too. Consequently, pork farmers keep animals in tiny pens and given them antibiotics so they don’t get sick. They are fed with cheap soy or corn, which is imported from South America, where vast swathes of rain forest are cut down to grow these crops. This, in turn, harms the climate and drives up the cost of land.

We are all paying the price

In the end, we are all paying a high price for cheap meat. Animals reared on antibiotics mean humans are growing resistant to certain drugs, and the meat industry pollutes our ground water as too much animal waste ends up in our fields.

Industry leaders and politicians have long known about these ramifications. Everyone understands that the only way to change things is to switch to smaller, decentralized businesses that produce high-quality meat in smaller quantities. This would presumably reduce their revenue, because it would no longer pay to export pork to China. This would also surely drive up the price of meat here in Germany. Surveys, however, show that a large majority of Germans would favor transitioning to a more sustainable form of agriculture. What we need, then, is the determination, courage and leadership to get us there.